Harvesttime Rains Costly

first_imgWhatever the yields, market prices are dropping, said Don Shurley, a CAES extensioneconomist. “The rain the weekend of Oct. 25-26 adversely affected the Georgia cotton crop,” said SteveM. Brown, an Extension Service cotton scientist with the UGA College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences. Brown said drought through August and September, then heavy rain in late September,brought the estimates down. “At this point, we’ll be fortunate to average close to 700 poundsper acre,” he said. Rains totaling 5 inches to 8 inches fell on most of the Georgia cotton belt through the lastOctober weekend. Brown said some farmers reported 60 mph winds, too. Almost half of Georgia’s 1.4 million acres of cotton remain unharvested. The U.S.Department of Agriculture’s Oct. 1 yield estimate has cotton at 702 pounds per acre, downfrom 736 pounds earlier in the season. The potential for more losses grows every day. Soggy fields make farmers unable to pickcotton and raise the risk of further weather damage. “If we had gotten this rain in August,” he said, “we could have seen a $100 million increase invalue, instead of these continuing losses.” Farmers face further losses in the hidden second cotton crop: the seeds. Last year, cottonseedearned the state’s farmers $77 million, adding 10 percent to the overall value of Georgiacotton. Processors must treat rain-stained fibers to make them white again before the fiber can be spuninto threads for clothing. That extra step adds to their costs. So the price farmers get isdiscounted based on the extra processing costs. “We’re estimating a $30 to $50 quality loss per 480-pound bale,” he said. Adding to thoselosses, cotton already picked and waiting in modules to be picked up could sustain waterdamage, too — about $600 per 15-bale module. “Those two factors combined with the normal pattern of price decline through the season areall contributing to a slight price drop,” Shurley said. Rainwater damages cotton fibers and turns them grayish, cutting their value. When cottonbolls first open, the fibers are a brilliant white — its most valuable color. Unstained cottonfetches the highest price. Wet weather can cause seeds to sprout, dropping their feed value for livestock. “So really,”Brown said, “farmers lose money on two counts in a situation like this.” Georgia cotton farmers have lost another $40 million to $50 million to excess late-seasonrains, says a University of Georgia agricultural scientist. Worldwide stock markets affect cotton prices, too. The recent wild fluctuations rooted insoutheast Asian markets indicate their economies are weakening. As economies in that regionlose strength, so does their ability to buy U.S. cotton. The hard rain and wind did knock some cotton off the stalk, Brown said. He said the biggestcotton loss, though, was to quality. Other factors contribute to the price drop. “The yield declines in the Southeast are being offsetby yield increases elsewhere in the cotton belt,” Shurley said. “So the national yield is stable.” Brown tells farmers to get wet modules ginned as quickly as possible to avoid further losses.The value of each module, he said, is at least $5,000. The combination of soggy fields, humid, foggy mornings and shortened days is pushingharvest back. “I expect we’ll see farmers harvesting cotton well past Thanksgiving,” Brownsaid. Brown said many modules, the densely packed cotton stored in the fields, got wet during theheavy rains. Others are soaking up water from the saturated ground around them. No matterhow the lint gets wet, cotton can rot quickly. Prices for December cotton entered November at 70 cents to 72 cents per pound. Shurley saidcontracting cotton for later sale and paying storage costs could prove profitable for farmers.last_img

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